What Buddha Never Taught
"Darling, I had a bad dream last night."
"Me too" I said.
"I am not kidding."
"So what was your bad dream."
"That you are having a bad dream." I said as politely as possible.
"What do you mean?" She frowned at me.
"I mean exactly what I have just said sweetheart; every time you had a bad dream we had to spend around two thousand baht for a ceremony where we invite all the local monks, feed them well and on top of that give them a donation. I don’t understand why we have to go through such an elaborate process to ward off your fear."
"Because that way Buddha will protect us from any imminent danger; my dream will not come true."
"Sorry sweetheart, but I have to remind you that Buddha died about three thousand years ago so there is no way he can protect us from any earthly danger and I mean it."
"Don’t you kidding with me when it’s a question of yours and Nuer’s life."
"But we both are doing all right, aren't we?"
"Yes, but last night I had a dream about you; in my dream you were stuck somewhere in the jungle near a derelict temple and a snake was about to bite you."
"And then what happened?"
"Then I woke up from sleep scared and my dream was broken."
"So what is so bad about this dream, at least you got up before the snake could bite."
"Thai people believe that this means another lady will come into your life. That’s the implication of the dream."
"That’s perfect; she is welcome." I grinned.
"If that happens I am going to cut your sausage and feed it to the duck, I tell you true." There was no such menace in her voice yet a faint cloud of seriousness partially dampened the playfulness of the threat.
"Oh, then I have to wear metallic underwear every night."
"You are not taking me seriously."
"No I am not; how can I take you seriously sweetheart when you are relying on somebody to save you who has been dead for the last three thousand years? No way is he going to come with any armor to protect us. Let’s apply some rational thinking here. Buddha never said in any of his scriptures that he was going to protect us from any impending danger. And even though he has prescribed a path to follow, he repeatedly cautioned us not to believe his words but to practice it by ourselves and see what fruit it yields. Isn’t that true?"
"Maybe, but I do because that makes my heart happy. I feel comfortable and can sleep well after that."
"I understand now." I sighed.
"What happened? Why is he crying." I ran into the bedroom hearing my son crying.
"I spanked him" she said.
"May I know what has he done wrong?" My son doesn’t have a very docile personality but then again at his age he should have that kind of curiosity and liveliness which sometimes we misinterpret as being naughty.
"I am trying to teach him to pray to Buddha every night before going to sleep but he never takes it seriously and always laughs and jumps around while praying."
"How old is he?" I asked.
"What do you mean? You don’t know how old your son is?"
"I am just checking whether you have forgotten it or not."
She looked confused.
"Darling, how a four year old kid will understand what a prayer means, when many of us, the grown ups do it even without knowing the actual significance of it" I said.
"Let’s not argue about this; this is my religion. I don’t expect much from him but at least he should lead his life in the Buddhist way."
"But before that he needs to understand why he should pray or follow a particular path. He is still not mature enough to understand any of these and take his own decision."
"But I did when I was four."
"That is because you wanted to be a good girl for your mother and you did whatever she had told you to do. I am sure you didn’t do it with any deep understanding of Buddhism at that age. Don’t get me wrong sweetheart, I am not against prayer or Buddhist way of living life, it’s just that I don’t like conditioning a kid’s mind at such an early age."
"If he follows the right practice from now then later when he understands he can correlate to what he is doing. Moreover, prayer may help him to calm down" she argued.
"That may not be true sweetheart. If you spank him regularly for this reason he may never be interested to know anything about your religion since it only brings fear and pain. And he will miss the core teachings of Buddha about bringing love, compassion and thus understanding in one’s life. I know you are a devout Buddhist but I don’t want to condition his mind at such early age. Let him grow up and choose his own path based on a deeper understanding of Buddhism; I don’t have any problem with that" I tried to explain.
"Then he will always be naughty like this." Sometimes before giving up she says something for which I don’t have any answer because it’s not driven by any rationale. And I am yet to figure out whether it is a sign of giving up all hope or a different strategy of persuasion where I cannot refute her by any logic.
"That’s ok, being naughty now is not going to influence his later life in any negative way. He is no different than me, I was also very naughty and I have done reasonably well in my life so I am confident he will do all right." I stood firm.
"Sometimes during weekend we can take him to our village temple" she implored.
"Why?" I was not particularly in favor of that motion because our village temple is a kind of an open air zoo where the only kind of animal found is a stray dog. And beyond any reasonable doubt they have proved their biased animosity towards strangers.
"At least he will see other kids praying to Buddha and follow them."
"Let’s get his opinion about that; would you like to go to temple with us on every Sunday?" I asked my son.
"Yes I will go with you" he said.
"What do you so like about the temple?" I asked.
"Kin khanom." he answered.
"Ah, so it’s because you like to eat all the goodies people bring to Buddha" I laughed.
"Arroy arroy" he smiled.
Quaint stories, but oh so Thai!